Edmonton’s Literati Explore Canada 150

Edmonton Community Foundation is collaborating with LitFest and Eighteen Bridges magazine on an anthology and salon series to mark Canada’s sesquicentennial

In 1867, the Fathers of Confederation put pen to paper to draft a plan uniting the colonies into a single federation. Nearly 150 years later, Edmonton’s literary community will pen new stories to examine this historic anniversary.

Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF), LitFest (Edmonton and Canada’s only nonfiction literary festival), and Eighteen Bridges (a national literary magazine based in Edmonton) have joined forces to launch, “High Level Lit: 12 writers musing on YEG for Canada150.” The project will involve the creation of an anthology, published alongside Eighteen Bridges, as well as a literary salon series, featuring the anthology contributors.

“We have this great community of writers who either lived here or still live here,” says Fawnda Mithrush, LitFest’s executive director. The project committee hand-picked 12 notable writers from the community to participate. “I think most people were intrigued by the project and
excited to appear in an anthology like this, which celebrates Edmonton in the landscape of Canada’s 150th birthday,” she adds.

The list of contributors is diverse and includes stalwart Edmonton writers like memoirist Myrna Kostash, newspaper columnist Paula Simons, and former poet laureate Anna Marie Sewell, as well as well-known personalities like Rollie Pemberton (also a rap musician known as “Cadence Weapon”) and Darrin Hagen (a well-known drag performer known as “The Edmonton Queen”). Readers may also recognize the bylines of Giller Award-winning novelist Lynn Coady (a former Edmontonian who now calls Toronto home) and comedian Bruce McCulloch of Kids in the Hall fame (born in Edmonton, but now residing in L.A.).

Curtis Gillespie, an accomplished author in his own right and editor of Eighteen Bridges, explains that the anthology will explore some aspect
of Canada’s 150th anniversary as it relates to Edmonton, but writers will choose how they interpret the theme. “We wanted to make it open-ended and leave it up to the ingenuity of the people on board,” says Gillespie, adding that the contributions may be of any genre (including nonfiction, fiction, and poetry) and may or may not involve historical elements.

The project also involves four literary salons — public events in which writers read or speak about their work — culminating in the anthology’s launch during LitFest, in October 2017. Informal events, salons invite readers to engage with their local writers — and one another.

Gillespie hopes the project provides an outlet for the “huge diversity of voices” in Edmonton and draws attention to the strength of its arts community: “For a city of our size, we punch well above our weight, culturally.” And with the city evolving so rapidly, he hopes readers will come away with a deeper understanding of how Edmonton has evolved. “It really is a much different place than it used to be,” he says, “We need to start celebrating that.”